The story of maritime training and education in Nigeria and the development of manpower for our industry’s middle and management level cannot be written without the mention of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
As the name implies, NIMASA has the unrivaled authority to confer the much sought for Certificate of Competence (COC) on deserving cadets who have submitted themselves for such examination and deemed to have performed satisfactorily. It also has the responsibility for registering private maritime training institutions, and for providing them with the needed sundry support to deliver.
It would seem that NIMASA had remained focused on the above until sailing into an unforeseen political turbulence about sixteen years ago, from which it has yet to recover. It is thus a story of sadness and joy, of clarity and yet lack of direction, of good intentions but with bad approach, and above all, one expected to run on a strong corporate governance system, but which appear nonetheless, to have fared in the opposite, so far.
Because of the peculiarity of the turbulence referred to above, we shall endeavour to look at the journey of maritime education in Nigeria stretching back to 2011, in a backward progression as it were, not only to give the required direction to the present, but to also clearly make it possible to understand the issues in their present state, and hence be able to logically trace them to their starting point, and to also define the fault lines, if any.
Perhaps, we should start with the assumption that our maritime education is faulty because this country with its vast maritime potential, including her human capital is not achieving the right competitive edge in the global maritime market; despite the seeming strategic planning, fantastic blueprint, with its ‘precise execution’ outlines vide its humongous structured funding, budgetary and otherwise.
For a long time already, this important national task of the maritime industry development scale has been driven more or less by people suffused with their self importance, and who in the course of event introduced certain ridiculous sense of discretion, an exercise of power that is not vested with the task getting performed as such; but rather about the thoughts and personal judgment, apparently tailored to suit their mood.
That has been the attitude of successive Director Generals of NIMASA in the implementation of maritime education, which encompasses shipping and seafaring in its entire gamut.
Hence, despite having one of the most bloated maritime education blueprint, our progress or lack of progress in the real world of global maritime competition which has been nothing to write home about, resides with NIMASA DGs passing for little semi gods since 2011.
While NIMASA is responsible for the issuance of COC to students that has undertaken courses in seafaring and maritime education, the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN) currently the sole government owned maritime non degree awarding institution has the mandate of training Nigerian students and cadets, along with other private institutions spread across the country for middle level manpower.
Incidentally, the government of the day designed MAN’s major funding as being five percent of NIMASA total earning, which has been operated without bitches up until 2011 and upwards, when the computation of what constitutes the five percent, and more significantly, the release of whatever is deemed as the appropriate figure has been a subject of intense political interest.
It is more so as NIMASA suddenly transformed into an ombudsman and Releasing Officer, while the successive DGs it has been said loudly, to have been doing the releases more or less at their pleasure.
But let us hurry pass the regime of Dr. Ade Dosunmu, one time DG NIMASA who introduced the greatest comic to the political life of the administration, when he ruthlessly abused and misapplied the five percent statutory fund.
Recall it was the same former Agency helmsman, who last week was all over the news, arguing against the proposed merger of NIMASA with two other agencies of government, purportedly to produce a single Nigeria Revenue Agency, saying the proposal is organically and structurally wrong and inappropriate.
In the subsequent editions, if time permits, hopefully we shall return to the beginning of the balkanization of the MAN Fund from 2011; so that we can begin the process of holding those leading us, who have led or still aspiring to lead us, accountable.
The obvious negative impact of the controlled release or disbursement of the fund apparently tied to the whims and caprices of the NIMASA CEO as it were is that the training sequence of cadets and indeed its anticipated quality delivery is often asphyxiated and which in the long run, leads to consequential derailment.
At that rate, the Academy can only grow as fast, focused and as purposeful as the little gods that presides over its funding, deign to bequeath. There is simply no other way, given the aforementioned circumstances.
Therefore, if this government or indeed, successive governments wish to pursue the optimal development of the Academy, with the consequent impact on product delivery via the right standard with improved employment rating in the global arena as an agenda, then NIMASA must be made to shed its headmaster status and to behave.
And this is not going to be an easy drive, until and unless the government of today begins some backward integration cleansing process, by identifying CEOs that have set themselves over and above constitutional and statutory conditions, precedent.
Short of a probe and or a determination to henceforth respond decisively to a repeat of the ignoble, prevailing master-servant relationship, this attitude will continue to impede the development and full realization of Nigeria’s potential in global seafaring.
Without any gainsaying, the lack of proper funding arising from NIMASA seemingly arrogant posturing and indeed its lack of judicious administration by past management of MAN has for many years hampered the potential capacity of our cadets which has partly been responsible for their being discriminated against at the global seafaring arena.
Not only through the rejection of COC offered by NIMASA, the situation has been made worse since it’s incursion into cadets training under the National Seafarers’ Development Programme (NSDP) which started in 2008. Two things are significant here, one, the NDSP is by all intent and purposes a politically motivated racketeering, which though sounds good and well meaning to the ears; but nonetheless, is a straight jacket political fraud and open abuse, as the programme clearly overreach the agency’s constitutional powers.s
Two, in spite of the humongous amount of money expended so far, conservatively running into billions of naira, the NSDP has failed to address the envisaged capacity development deficit for which it was designed.
Every colourful, high sounding and fine political speeches to the contrary cannot obviate the simple fact above, and therefore, this government should take out time to look into the NSDP gambit.
The job of NIMASA is administration, while that of the Nigerian Maritime Academy (MAN), Maritime University of Nigeria (MUN) and other registered and recognized maritime training institutions is training, despite that most of them have supported the illegal NSDP albeit openly, having been co-opted into the contraption, even as they lament in private.
NIMASA should be told in strong terms to concentrate on its assignment of administration, safety and control, and allow the maritime training institutions do their job. It bears repeating that NIMASA’s only complimentary role is that of providing the required support, and stop withholding MAN’s fund tied to its earning; which it loves to disburse per piece meal.
It is also not in NIMASA’s place to superintend the activities of MAN as an autonomous financial institution; which appears to have largely produced that master-servant posturing, which has sadly led to the starving of the institution of its statutory funds.
There are organs of government saddled with such monitoring for accountability and the maintenance of our corporate governance system, each department of government should learn to exist with others in mutual respect.
Until we find a way to get out of our self imposed official deceits, oiled by the regime of collective propaganda, the suffocating shambolic protective elitism which has been fanning the air of shameless self adulation, this country will not progress.
At the end of the day, while these individuals appear to gain one way or the other, usually through political patronage, the national economy, employment and productivity index which essentially drive our GDP will remain irretrievably trapped at below 0.8 percent, global scale.
Yet, just last year, NIMASA and its supervising Ministry of Transportation while hyping the continued significance of NSDP, lied that the programme was making progress and will soon take Nigeria to the competitive reflex mapping where she would be amongst the major top players.
If that was not a political statement intended to massage official ego and gloss over the illegal programme, one wonder if our current earning capacity said to be in the neighbourhood of $6billion in forex inflow per annum can serve as a realistic trajectory in critical national planning.
I guess we have a collective duty to expose and stop individuals promoting wrong economic prognosis with the uncanny audacity to function above the laws. We must not only stop them, we must urge government to desist from rewarding such characters with future appointments.
The NSDP is an aberration that has been allowed to ingratiate itself into our national consciousness through shrewd emotional manipulations, feeding fat on our morbid sense of permissiveness.
This takes us to the recent flag off ceremony of the third phase of NSDP, dubbed NSDP-TERRA 2, whatever that means, in which NIMASA announced it has secured admission for 400 cadets to be trained in Greece and India.
Today, let us also not waste out time with the recurring cries of some of the NSDP beneficiaries about reported neglect. Owners of the NSDP initiative said the oversea programme is targeted at training globally competitive manpower to stem further discrimination against Nigerian seafarers. But is that narrative true and correct?
If foreign maritime nations are saying they wish to come and understudy Nigeria’s Cabotage regime, ostensibly driven by the right pillars and capacity focus, why not replicate that capacity in our local institutions? All it takes is focus and commitment, and in a matter of three to four years, we can begin to churn out quality products that can compete globally. The continuous trafficking in capital flight tied to the NSDP is suspicious.
With MAN, NITT, MUN and the other private maritime institutions, Nigeria has the structure and base to train our young people into cadets and seafarers. MAN Oron in the past four years have proved beyond reasonable doubt that we have the leadership competence and administrative wherewithal to develop our capacities, as indeed our various seafaring faculties for the realization of whatever is presently missing in regards to standard as set by the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
It is troubling to note that the NIMASA training racket is by no means limited to NSDP, the agency has contracted many Nigerian universities into developing maritime training faculties handsomely funded by it. In fact, despite the expanding NSDP initiative, more universities are enjoying the NIMASA largesse.
Instead of the heavy reliance on foreign training, with less than a third of what is presently wasted on NSDP, MAN and other local institutions can be upgraded to meet the IMO standard in global seafaring.
We developed our training capacity to end training foreign tour for our military, today we have our local training institutions to cater for all level of manpower requirement in-country, NDA, War College, Navy School, Infantry School, name it, they are here and our soldiers are top rate.
Hence the question for foreign search of certification in the area of International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW), including COC, is neither here nor there.
The problems appear staged managed, induced through internal sabotage, because they are surmountable through the appropriate deployment of local capacity development.
Future ministers of transportation should not fall for this scam, nor should the President Bola Ahmed Tinubu government.